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Temple signs 23 to National Letters of Intent

Matt Rhule AP

(Below is Temple’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

PHILADELPHIA (2/6/13) – The Temple University Football Program, under the leadership of first-year head coach Matt Rhule, signed 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Geographically, the states best represented in the Owl class are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ten student-athletes list their hometowns in the Keystone state, while 10 hail from the Garden state.

Additionally, two signees call New York home; one signee comes from Virginia.

Temple’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked in the BIG EAST Conference at No. 7 by Rivals.com and No. 9 by Scout.com. The Owls’ earned the top ranking in the Mid-American Conference in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

Ten of the 19 high school signees attended the Temple Football Camp (53%). Over the past four years (2010-13), 71 percent of the signees have attended the Temple Football Camps.

Seven of the signees—Dion Dawkins, Paul Layton, Jihaad Pretlow, John Rizzo, Averee Robinson, Adrian Sullivan, and Kiser Terry— enrolled in classes in January 2013. Layton is a transfer student from the University of Albany.

The Owls begin spring practice on March 22 in preparation for BIG EAST Conference play in 2013. The squad’s annual Cherry & White spring game is slated for Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m. at Edberg-Olson Hall. Temple returns 46 letterwinners and 15 starters, including Freshman All-American and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Tyler Matakevich.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 23 members of Temple’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jarred Alwan
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-1 • 215
Cherry Hill, N.J. • Camden Catholic HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked the No. 23 player in the state of New Jersey … played for coach Gil Brooks at Camden Catholic HS … participated in the North-South Game … selected Temple over Boston College and West Virginia.

Personal: Jarred Alwan … born November 30, 1993 … parents are Narci and Gamal Alwan … plans to study risk management and actuarial science in the Fox School of Business.

Matt Barone
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 280
McKees Rocks, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked 13th nationally at center … played for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011.

Personal: Matt Barone … born March 2, 1995 … Montour teammate Tyler Haddock is a fellow Temple signee.

Buddy Brown
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-2 • 205
Williamstown, N.J. • Williamstown HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, had 87 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles … participated in the North-South Game… selected Temple over more than 20 other BCS offers, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Personal: Shawn Brown, Jr. … born July 13, 1994 … parents are Tiffany and Shawn Brown, Sr. … has two sisters— Destiny (21) and Brianna (16) … father is a retired police officer … loves history … Williamstown teammate Jullian Taylor is a fellow Temple signee … considering a double major in kinesiology and business.

Brian Carter
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 280
Harrisburg, Pa. • Harrisburg HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Calvin Everett at Harrisburg HS … three-year starter … 2012 first-team All-Mid-Penn Conference honoree on offense … selected to participate in the Big 33 Game … selected Temple over Connecticut.

Personal: Brian Carter … born November 7, 1994 … parents are Melody Fleming and Melvin Washington … guardian is Tracey Smith.

Jim Cooper, Jr.
Placekicker/Punter • Freshman • 6-1 • 205
Linwood, N.J. • Mainland Regional HS

High School: U.S. Army All-American … three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Robert Coffey at Mainland Regional HS but kicking coach was his father, Jim Sr. … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Personal: James Cooper, Jr. … born October 19, 1994 … parents are Marie and James Cooper, Sr. … father was also a kicker at Temple (1983-86) under head coach Bruce Arians.

Dion Dawkins
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 330
Rahway, N.J. • Rahway HS • Hargrave Military Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played offensive tackle for coach Troy Davis during the 2012 season … bolstered an o-line that helped the Tigers rush for more than 150 yards per game … selected Temple over Cincinnati.

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Gary Mobley at Rahway HS … graduated in 2012 … participated in the North-South Game.

Personal: Dion Ray Dawkins … born April 26, 1994 … parents are Lisa Dawkins and Eric Dawkins.

Sharif Finch
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-4 • 210
Henrico, Va. • Henrico HS

High School: Played linebacker for coach Roger Brookes … as a senior, had 84 tackles and five sacks … as a junior, had 161 tackles and 10.5 sacks … selected Temple over Miami and East Carolina.

Personal: Sharif Finch … born October 1, 1995… parents are Wendy Finch and Greg Finch … originally from Queens, N.Y.

Artrel Foster
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 170
Meadville, Pa. • Meadville HS

High School: Played cornerback and running back for coach Mike Feleppa at Meadville HS … four-year varsity starter … in prep career, had 4,248 all-purpose yards, including 3,249 rushing yards on 499 carries, 37 touchdowns, 130 tackles, and six interceptions … 2012 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for 101 yards in 2012 season opener against Northwestern … named one of the Top 100 juniors in Pennsylvania … 2011 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and sophomore … as a junior, had three interceptions … also a 2012 first-team All-Region honoree in basketball on defense and second-team All-Region on offense … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … also played basketball … selected Temple over Cincinnati and Penn State.

Personal: Artrel Jonte Foster … born June 24, 1995, in Meadville, Pa. …. parents are Tammy Foster and Art Bell … has an older sister, Asia Foster (24), and a younger brother, Armoni Foster (13) … cousin is Wade Manning, former WR/CB (1979-82) for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos … considering a career in graphic design or athletic training.

Tyler Haddock
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-2 • 290
Pittsburgh, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-year letterwinner at defensive tackle for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … unanimous All-Parkway Conference selection as a two-way player … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … in prep career, had 120 tackles and 15 sacks … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011 … totaled 100career tackles, 26 TFL, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries at the end of his junior season … also a three-year letterwinner in wrestling … went 60-29 … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … started in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … Honor Roll student … active with Big Brothers/Big Sisters … selected Temple over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Personal: Tyler James Haddock … born December 16, 1994, in Pittsburgh, Pa. … parents are Sharon Jones and John Jones (stepfather) … Montour teammate Matt Barone is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study sports management.

Todd Jeter
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 169
Monroeville, Pa. • Gateway HS

High School: Played wide receiver and defensive back for former coach Terry Smith, now at Temple, at Gateway HS … also returned punts … 2012 All-State selection … 2012 Quad East All-Star … 2012 second-team All-Foothills Conference honoree on defense … helped the Gators to a 9-2 record in 2012 en route to a Quad East championship with a perfect 8-0 record … team advanced to the WPIAL AAAA playoffs … as a senior in 2012, had 322 receiving yards and two touchdowns while making 27 tackles and two interceptions … averaged 20 yards per catch … played for the North squad in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected for the 2013 Big 33 Game.

Personal: Todd Jeter … mother is Renee Boswell.

Leon Johnson
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-6 • 300
Plainfield, N.J. • Bound Brook HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Dom Longo at Bound Brook HS … as a senior, had 20 tackles, including 15 solo stops … also played center for the Crusaders’ basketball team … selected Temple over South Florida and Ohio State.

Personal: Hubert Leon Johnson … prefers middle name … born June 4, 1995 … mother is Valerie Graves.

Paul Layton
Punter • Senior • 6-1 • 215
Burnt Hills, N.Y. • Ballston Lake HS • Albany

Transfer student from the University at Albany … enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … graduated in December 2012 … has one season of eligibility.

Honors: 2012, 2011, and 2010 first-team All-Northeast Conference honoree … 2012 College Football Performance FCS Punter Watch List … 2012 All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team … named the 2011 Great Danes’ Most Valuable Special Teams Player (team award) … named a 2011 ECAC Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Special Team All-Star … Northeast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week (twice) … 2010 NEC Academic Honor Roll … 2009 Capital District Student Scholarship.

College: Three-year letterwinner at punter for head coach Bob Ford at the University at Albany … averaged 41.0 yards in career. 2012: Played in all 11 games at punter … averaged a league-best 40.4 yards per punt, including a program record 82-yarder vs. Wagner (11/3) … punted 46 times with 11 sailing 50-yards or longer … dropped 15 within the 20-yard line. 2011: Averaged 42.6 yards per punt, ranking 9th among the national leaders … booted 17 kicks of 50 or more yards. 2010: Averaged 40.1 yard per punt as a redshirt freshman … ranked 31st among the national leaders and third in the Northeast Conference … placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line, including seven for touchbacks … booted 50-plus yard punts 12 times … tied 13th-longest punt in school history with 69-yarder in season finale against Monmouth … kicked a 63-yard punt at Duquesne and a 61-yarder at Maine. 2009: Redshirted. Selected Temple over Penn State and Notre Dame.

High School: Four-year letterwinner for coach Matt Shell at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake HS … 2008 Class A first-team All-State selection by New York State Sportswriters Association as a kicker … made 68 of 69 PATs and three field goals … third on all-time Section II kicking list with 77 points … averaged 42 yards per punt … all-time leader in Section II history with 172 career kicking points … 2008 Large School Offensive Player of the Year by the Albany Times Union … first-team All-Area by Daily Gazette and Troy Record … led high school to state championship game as a quarterback … passed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns … rushed for 1,186 yards and 20 TDs … BHBL won second sectional title in last three years … consensus All-Area punter as a junior, when he averaged 41 yards per attempt … earned third-team All-State honors as a quarterback … career stats: 2,861 passing yards, 34 passing TDs, 2,002 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs … four varsity awards as basketball guard … two-time team captain … National Honor Society member … Math Honor Society member … Business Honor Society member … participated in Big Brothers.

Personal: Paul K. Layton … born November 5, 1990, in Burnt Hills, N.Y. … parents are Karen and Jim Layton … has two older sisters, Jessica (32) and Lauren (26), and an older brother, Steve (30) … all siblings were college athletes … brother played tight end at Union College … Jessica played soccer at Syracuse, and Lauren played field hockey at SUNY Oswego … graduated from Albany in December 2012 with a degree in business administration… pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

Jihaad Pretlow
Defensive Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 185
Elizabeth, N.J. • Blair Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Jim Stone at Blair Academy … as a junior, rushed for 838 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Bucs went 7-0 overall … also made four interceptions as a defensive back … played two seasons with nationally ranked basketball team … selected Temple over Connecticut, Penn State, and Rutgers.

Personal: Jihaad Pretlow … born March 15, 1994 … parents are Bayyinah Pretlow and Malik Jackson … father played football at Rutgers in the early 1990s … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee P.J. Walker.

Shane Rafter
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 282
Moorestown, N.J. • Moorestown HS

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Russ Horton … three-year letterwinner … 2012 All-County honoree on defense … helped the Quaker to the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs … as a junior, had 61 tackles and three sacks … the first player to commit to Temple in the 2013 class … participated in the 2011 National Underclassmen Combine … also a two-year letterwinner in track and ice hockey … selected Temple over Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse.

Personal: Shane Rafter … born July 7, 1994 … parents are John and Barb Rafter … has a sister, Jamie.

Semaj Reed
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-7 • 270
Philadelphia, Pa. • Haverford School

High School: Played defensive end for coach Michael Murphy at the Haverford School … also played basketball … selected Temple over Buffalo and Maryland.

Personal: Semaj Reed … mother is Jacqueline Reed … originally from Newburgh, N.Y. … interested in political science, criminal justice, and business.

John Rizzo
Fullback • Freshman • 6-1 • 221
Johnstown, Pa. • Richland HS

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Brandon Bailey at Richland HS … 2012 Tribune-Democrat first-team All-Area … as a senior, rushed for 1,769 yards and 20 touchdowns … played in the East-East Game … three-time state heavyweight wrestling champion … selected Temple over Penn State, Pitt, and Georgia Tech.

Personal: John Rizzo … born February 13, 1993 … parents are Lynda and Tony Rizzo … has six siblings— Anthony (26), Marlena (24), Frank (23), Joe (21), Christina (15), and Mario (14).

Averee Robinson
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-1 • 285
Harrisburg, Pa. • Susquehanna Township HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy.

High School: Played defensive tackle for coach Joe Headen at Susquehanna Township HS … 2011 Harrisburg Patriot-News first-team Defensive All-Star … as a junior, had 46 tackles and eight sacks … also wrestled … won consecutive PIAA heavyweight wrestling championship in 2012 and 2011… attended the 2010 Temple Football Camp.

Personal: Averee Robinson … born October 17, 1993 … parents are Terry and Adrian Robinson, Sr. … older brother is former Temple Owl and three-time first-team All-MAC DE Adrian Robinson (2008-11) who just finished his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adrian Sullivan
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 270
Babylon, N.Y. • Babylon HS • Worchester Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played one season for coach Tony Johnson at Worcester Academy (Mass.) … Honor Roll student.

High School: Played offensive tackle and defensive end for coach Rick Punzone at Babylon Junior-Senior HS … team went 15-6 his last two seasons … named to the 2012 Best Players on Long Island Honor Roll for basketball.

Personal: Adrian Sullivan, Jr. … parents are Sonja Stewart and the late Adrian Sullivan, Sr. … uncle is former Temple and current San Diego Chargers assistant coach Andrew Dees.

Jullian Taylor
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 230
Glenside, Pa. • Williamstown (N.J.) HS

High School: Versatile athlete … played defensive end, tight end, and linebacker for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … 2012 All-State, All-Mid Athletic, All-Group 5, and All-South Jersey honoree … team went a perfect 12-0 en route to the 2012 state Class 5 championship as a senior, had 60 tackles and 14 sacks … participated in the North-South Game … volunteered for Mastery Charter School’s beautification project … selected Temple over Iowa and Virginia Tech.

Personal: Jullian Patrick Taylor … born January 30, 1995, in Philadelphia, Pa. … parents are Rufus Taylor and Rolanda Brewer … has a younger brother, Jay (8), and a younger sister, Mia (8) … father is a Temple alum who was a walk-on the men’s basketball team in 1989 … Williamstown teammate Buddy Brown is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study business.

Kiser Terry
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 260
Feasterville, Pa. • Neshaminy HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy … saw action at defensive end.

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … selected to play in the 2012 Big 33 Game and the 2011 Chesapeake Bowl … team captain … played defensive end and tight end for coach Mark Schmidt at Neshaminy HS … 2011 PA Football News Honorable Mention All-State honoree … 2011 EasternPAFootball.com Honorable Mention All-State selection … 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer first-team All-Southeastern PA pick … 2011 Suburban One first-team All-Conference honoree … 2011 Neshaminy Mr. Lineman coaches’ award recipient … 2010 second-team All-Conference selection … Redskins went 12-2 in 2010, his junior season, and advanced to the District 1 AAAA championship game … as a junior, had 47 tackles, including 40 solo stops, a team-best six sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Personal: Kiser Terry … born August 11, 1993 … mother is Betty Terry … older brother Terrell Channell lettered in football at Temple in 2006.

Jahad Thomas
Running Back • Freshman • 5-10 • 170
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Ranked the fourth-best running back in the state of New Jersey … all-purpose back for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … helped team to the 2012 state title … participated in the North-South Game … captained two sports as a junior … starter on the nationally ranked basketball team.

Personal: Jahad Thomas … born November 6, 1995 … parents are Connie Thomas and Eddie Roberts … Elizabeth HS teammate P.J. Walker is a fellow Temple signee.

P.J. Walker
Quarterback • Freshman • 6-1 • 200
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Dual-threat quarterback for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … 2012 Newark-Star Ledger State Offensive Player of the Year … helped team to the 2012 state title … as a junior, one of the state’s most accurate passers … went 120-of-189 (63.5 percent) for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns … in the NJSIAA sectional final against Piscataway, threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 199 yards and a touchdown … four-year starter … participated in the North-South Game … also played basketball … team reached the 2012 Group 4 final … selected Temple over Connecticut and Rutgers.

Personal: Phillip Walker, Jr. … born February 26, 1995… parents are Tamicha Drake and Phillip Walker, Sr. … Elizabeth HS teammate Jahad Thomas is a fellow Temple signee … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee Jihaad Pretlow.

Zaire Williams
Running Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 188
Sicklerville, N.J. • Timber Creek HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked by Rivals as the No. 36 overall running back and New Jersey’s 16th-best player overall … played for coach Rob Hinson … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected Temple over West Virginia.

Personal: Zaire Williams … born October 25, 1994 … father is Bruce Williams.

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Iowa WR breaks Odell Beckham’s Guinness world record

Iowa v Minnesota

Iowa’s Tevaun Smith didn’t just one-up New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a day after he set a world record. The junior from Toronto, Canada easily surpassed Beckham’s mark and caught nearly as many one-handed passes in a minute than he did all season.

Beckham originally set the record Thursday by making 33 catches without a drop in 60 seconds. Smith, who caught 43 passes for 596 yards last season, decided he was up to the task with 41 one-handed snags.

The Iowa Hawkeyes athletic department recorded the record-breaking event, via ESPN:

After being challenged, Beckham will surely attempt to break the new record.

“The type of person I am, I love breaking records, no matter what it is,” Beckham said Thursday in an interview with CBS New York. “I look forward to breaking and going above and beyond what somebody else has done.”

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FCS coaches not sure Vernon Adams can transition from EWU to Oregon

Eastern Washington v Washington

There is very little Vernon Adams can prove with another year at Eastern Washington.

During his time as a member of the Eagles, the quarterback has proved he’s one of the elite players at the FCS level of play, and he helped lead his team to three straight playoff appearances.

In 37 career games, Adams threw for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. Plus, the quarterback ran for 1,232 yards and 11 more touchdowns.

However, none of this means he’s ready to make the leap from the FCS level to play for the Oregon Ducks, who just played in a national championship game.

Adams is still entertaining the idea of transferring, though, as he prepares to visit Eugene this weekend.

“I’m not saying I’m leaving Eastern, but I’m just going to check it out and see what they have to say,” Adams told The Spokesman-Review‘s Jim Allen.

FCS coaches believe Adams can play at the level, but it may not be the right time for the quarterback to make the move.

“If I was advising him, I’d say he should stay,” Sam Houston State’s K.C. Keeler told The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

Keeler once coached Joe Flacco at Delaware before eventually becoming the Bearkats’ head coach. Sam Houston State even faced Eastern Washington to open its 2014 campaign.

“I walked out of that saying I don’t think I’ll see a better quarterback in the country and in my time coaching, I can’t list a whole lot better than I just saw,” Keeler said. “I have no reservation saying he’ll go into the Oregon locker room and that he’ll be as talented as anybody. It’s just there are a lot of things that go into being a starting quarterback.

“I’m disappointed he’s leaving because I think what players have to understand is bigger is not better, better is better. He’s developed an unbelievable following at Eastern Washington and I’d be disappointed he’s leaving our level. I’m not excited that he’s trying to bump up to a higher level. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get, and I don’t know if that’s the situation at Oregon.”

One obstacle Adams will face if he does decide to transfer is waiting to become part of the Ducks program until this summer. The quarterback is on track to graduate in June, which means he wouldn’t be able to participate in Oregon’s spring ball.

“I think there’s a real risk for Vernon Adams to do that,” former Oregon receivers coach and current Montana coach Robin Pflugrad said. “Can Vernon Adams do it? I’m a firm believer he can having seen him and having watched him from afar. It’s just going to be a totally different challenge for him and some of that is mental.”

The coaches were in agreement on one thing. If Adams does transfer to Oregon, they’ll be rooting for him to succeed.

“We’d cheer for him and a lot more than when he was playing against us, too,” Montana State’s Rob Ash said.

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Touted 2014 JUCO transfer leaving K-State for EKU

With National Signing Day five days away, here’s your daily reminder that recruiting hype doesn’t necessarily translate into on-field success.

D’Vonta Derricott was a four-star JUCO member of Kansas State’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker prospect coming from that level of football. Derricott never saw the field in 2014, taking a redshirt for his first season in Manhattan.

As it turns out, Derricott won’t ever see the field for K-State as he has decided to transfer, announcing via Twitter Thursday that he’s moving on to Eastern Kentucky.  According to the Manhattan Mercury, Derricott had been removed from K-State’s Alamo Bowl roster, although head coach Bill Snyder seemed to indicate that the door was at least slightly open for a return.

Because EKU plays at the FCS level, the linebacker will be eligible to play immediately in 2015. Counting this season, he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

(Photo credit: Kansas State athletics)

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Two more opt to transfer from Michigan

Michigan v Nebraska Getty Images

The work week began with word that a Michigan player has decided to leave Ann Arbor.  As it turns out, it’ll end the same way.  Times two.

First off, on Instagram Friday, Russell Bellomy announced that he will transfer out of the UM football program. In a very heartfelt statement, the quarterback asked that “you respect my decision and support me in whatever I do.”

Below is the statement, in its entirety.

“To those of you that know me well, I always try my hardest never to get emotional; however, I write this with a heavy heart. My heart is packed full of experiences, acquaintances and irreplaceable memories that I will reminisce on for the rest of my life. I love each and every one of my teammates, both former and present, and I hope y’all know that every day I busted my butt for you and the benefit of UM.

“I will receive my degree at the end of this semester and have decided to sign my release that enables me to play my 5th year as a graduate student at another university. I pray that you respect my decision and support me in whatever I do, because this was not an easy process. I am forever grateful to have attended and played for UM and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. “For I know the plans I have for you…” #GoBlueAlways”

As noted in the statement, Bellomy will be a graduate transfer, which means he would be eligible to play in 2015 if he decides to move on to an FBS program. The release granted by Michigan, which Bellomy showed on his social media post, allows him to transfer to any school not on the Wolverines’ schedule.

Russell Bellomy Release

Bellomy, a three-star member of the Wolverines’ 2011 recruiting class, played in six games during his time at UM, completing 4-of-23 passes for 46 yards and four interceptions.  Three of those interceptions came in a 23-9 loss to Nebraska in October of 2012, a game in which he was forced into action because of an elbow injury to starter Denard Robinson.

A short time later, teammate and defensive end-turned-tight end Keith Heitzman did the same thing as Bellomy, and on the same website to boot.

“The past few years have been an unforgettable journey full of ever lasting memories, both exciting and saddening. I have experienced the spoils of winning and the heartbreak of losing. I have always blamed my struggles on external factors and never realized that all of this was part of the process of becoming a Michigan man. It has been the most challenging yet rewarding 4 years of my life and for that I will be forever grateful.

“However, this moment right now has manifested itself into the toughest experience as of yet. I have signed my release form allowing me to talk with other schools for the potential to transfer. As of right now I will leave this great institution in the spring with a degree in hand and friendships that will last a lifetime. I have to make the best possible decision for me, therefore, I feel like I need to explore my options. I have to thank all the fans for their continued support through the turbulent times over these past few years and promise that Michigan is destined for greatness in the future. #forevergoblue”

Last season, Heitzman caught two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in playing in all 12 games.  Heitzman was a three-star member of UM’s 2011 recruiting class, and will be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school because he will be a grad transfer.

Monday, it was reported that running back Justice Hayes would be leaving as a graduate transfer. Prior to that, and between the firing of Brady Hoke and the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, linebacker Michael Ferns and offensive lineman Kyle Bosch left the program as well. Both of those players ultimately landed at West Virginia.

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Report: Clancy Pendergast is front-runner for Utah DC job

California v Washington State Getty Images

After a year away from the game, it appears Clancy Pendergast could be back in it if he so desires.  Reportedly.

Accord to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News*, Pendergast has emerged as the front-runner for the defensive coordinator job at Utah.  The Utes have been without a coordinator on that side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

As LSU searched for its new coordinator, Pendergast was interviewed as a potential replacement for John Chavis before hiring Kevin Steele away from Alabama.

(*Yes, I’m well aware of all y’all’s feelings toward Mr. Wolf.  Please, save yourself the breath and keystrokes.  Thanks in advance.)

 

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Brady Hoke reportedly not in the mix for CMU job

Brady Hoke AP

We still don’t know who will be Central Michigan’s next head football coach.  We can, though, apparently cross off one of the rumored candidates for the job of the school’s coaching to-do list.

Citing an individual with knowledge of the discussions, Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Brady Hoke is not in the mix for the CMU job.  Snyder writes “[t]hough CMU considered Hoke… it was not a fit* between the two sides.”

Hoke, of course, was fired as Michigan’s head coach in early December. Prior to his time at UM (2011-14) and San Diego State (2009-10), Hoke served as the head coach at Ball State of the MAC from 2004-08.

The CMU job came open Jan. 22 when Dan Enos abruptly stepped down to become the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. The Chips are currently the only FBS team without a head coach.

Athletic director Dave Heeke stated that he would employ a search firm to aid in the search and would like a replacement in place by signing day Feb. 4; that seems highly unlikely, although not impossible.

Aside from Hoke, other rumored candidates have included Detroit Lions special teams coordinator John Bonamego, Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, Ferris State head coach Tony Annese, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks among many, many others.

(*Allow me to get ahead of this: In the comments section, feel free, if it makes you feel better, to let the hefty jokes rain down like beads at Mardi Gras.)

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Title run to net OSU $3 million bump in merchandise royalties

American Money AP

Ohio State’s run to the College Football Playoff championship will have a trickle-down effect economically for the university as a whole.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, OSU officials expect to see an increase of $3 million over last year’s figures when it comes to the sale of licensed merchandise. While the paper writes that “[t]he percentage gain isn’t close to what OSU saw in 2002 when the Buckeyes beat Miami for the national crown, when royalties doubled to $5 million that year over the year before,” it is a figure that will benefit many.

Oddly enough, the greatest financial benefit won’t end up in the athletic department coffers. From the Dispatch:

For every dollar that goes into the licensing office, 55 cents goes to academic affairs, which handles scholarships, libraries, ongoing programs and the university’s 14 college units; 15 cents goes to the athletics department; 15 cents goes to the alumni association; and 15 cents goes to the student life program and its 1,000 student organizations.

That means that just $450,000 or so will go to the athletic department, while the remaining $2.55 million will be directed toward entities that benefit the present and past student populations.

The title run will also continue benefiting small businesses that sell Buckeye gear.

“People were energized long before the game, and people are still coming through the door,” Lori Leavitt Watson, vice president of one such business, told the Dispatch. “This has legs for us.

“What that (championship) does is people are willing to spend money. We had two people call and say they had planned on restringing their flag poles in the spring, but now? Nope. ‘We’re going to do it now, and we want that flag right now.'”

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Arian Foster says he accepted ’40, 50 grand’ from Vols boosters

Tennessee v South Carolina Getty Images

It’s not exactly a shock that Arian Foster stated during an interview Friday that he had accepted money from boosters during his time playing running back at Tennessee; in a documentary that aired in 2013, Foster acknowledged as much.

This time around, though, Foster got into specific dollar amounts, which always piques the interest of some.

During the radio interview with Dan LeBatard Thursday, the current Houston Texans running back was asked about receiving what would be impermissible cash benefits from UT boosters while he was a player.  From the Knoxville News:

“You have people help you out here and there,” Foster said Thursday on the Dan LeBatard show. “Boosters and alumni and ex-players, they all know how it is, man. It’s hard living check to check when you don’t have enough money to go out to the movies or any kind of leisure activity. And you’re not allowed to get a job. Especially when I was in college, they were a lot more stringent on those rules, so at any given chance I got the opportunity, I took a free handout. Absolutely.”

LeBatard pushed Foster for an exact dollar figure. Foster guessed that it was “40, 50 grand throughout my entire career.”

Foster was in Knoxville from 2004-08. His coach during that time was Phillip Fulmer, who released a statement after Foster’s comments in the 2013 documentary became public.

“As the head coach at Tennessee for 17 years, I took great pride in having a program that was NCAA compliant, as did our staff and administration,” Fulmer said at the time. “If we knew of a violation, big or small, we reported it.”

Foster’s comments come amidst a push, especially amongst the Power Five conferences, to put some of the billions of dollars the sports makes back into the pockets of the players in the form of bridging the cost-of-attendance gap. They also come one day after Seattle Seahawk defensive end Michael Bennett called the NCAA “one of the biggest scams in America.”

UPDATED 3:04 p.m. ET: That certainly didn’t take long.

Shortly after we posted the above, UT fans took to Twitter to blast Foster for his admissions during the radio interview yesterday.  At first Foster took this tack…

… and then, as the rhetoric from the other side began to ratchet up, he changed course…

… and ultimately landed here:

Grab your popcorn and head on over to Foster’s Twitter feed HERE.  This could be fun for an hour or two.

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Ezekiel Elliott tops, OSU QB trio among early Heisman favorites

If you thought the third-string quarterback who helped propel Ohio State to a three-win postseason run that culminated in a national championship, and who eschewed early entry into the NFL draft, would be the current Heisman front-runner, you’d be wrong.

Instead, it’s his backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott, who Bovada.lv has installed as a 6/1 favorite to win the 2015 Heisman Trophy.  Considering Elliott’s late-season run, his placement as the front-runner is hardly a surprise.

Over the last three games, which included wins in the Big Ten championship game and the College Football Playoff semifinal and championship games, Elliott, just a sophomore, carried the ball 76 times for 696 yards and eight touchdowns.  That’s more rushing yardage than Wake Forest (479) and Washington State (478) totaled the entire season.  His eight rushing touchdowns in that three-game span were more than Wake (four), Wazzu (five) and Kent State (six) had in 12 games in 2014.

The last running back to win the Heisman was Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.

As for the player alluded to in the lede?  Cardale Jones is at 14/1, tied with a pair of running backs — Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine — and behind seven other players.  Right behind Jones are the other parts to OSU’s upcoming three-headed quarterback battle: J.T. Barrett at 16/1, Braxton Miller at 18/1.

Getting back toward the top, a pair of SEC players are right on Elliott’s heels, with Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, a midseason Heisman favorite last year before fading, and LSU freshman running back sensation Leonard Fournette at 7/1.  TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is not far behind the top three at 15/2.

There are no finalists for the 2014 version of the award on the initial 2015 odds list as all three — Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper — all left early for the NFL.

Below are the complete set of 2015 Heisman Trophy odds, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

2015 Initial Bovada Heisman Odds

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Awaiting a UAB resurrection, Bill Clark won’t coach in 2015

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks

After killing off the program late last year, there’s a growing sense of hope that football will be reinstated at UAB.  Maybe.

In that vein, the man who led the Blazers to a mini-renaissance, only to see it mercilessly executed, is lying in wait for what many are projecting to be a resurrection.

Speaking to Kevin Scarbinsky of al.com, Bill Clark stated that he’s had several opportunities to coach elsewhere since the sport was controversially axed in early December. Clark wouldn’t divulge any particular programs, but did allow that there were head-coaching as well as assistant offers on the table.

He turned them all down, in part because he wants to see how the situation at UAB plays out — “My heart is still at UAB. I love those people” — and in part because he’ll be fully vested in the state’s retirement system within a year.

Despite the program going on the chopping block, the 46-year-old Clark will still be paid the final two years of his contract, which will allow him to hit the 25-year mark of the state’s vesting threshold later in 2015.

Football-wise, Clark labeled it a “definite possibility” he’d return to the Blazers if the program was reinstated. There was, though, one potentially significant qualifier when it comes to a return.

“There’s a glimmer of hope for me and a lot of folks,” he said. “I love Birmingham and I love the state of Alabama, but a lot of things would have to happen, and it would have to be done correctly.”

The intimation from Clark is that the financial commitment from the school would need to be very tangible as the Blazers would essentially be a start-up program again as nearly every player of merit has fled the university to continue their playing careers elsewhere. Commitment outside of the financial from the administration would also seem to be paramount, although the program would seemingly have the backing of some well-heeled boosters who were ready to step in and save the sport in the first place. Even the faculty at the school would be behind a revival.

The situation’s gotten to the point where a state lawmaker is “seeking a ‘full, thorough, independent’ review of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees to investigate accusations of board interference involving UAB athletics,” which serves as yet another suggestion that an about-face may be in order — and Clark may be the man to lead it.

In 2014, Clark’s first season at the school, the Blazers posted a 6-6 mark, the first time the team had finished a season with at least a .500 record since 2004. That’s the last time UAB was bowl-eligible, although the Blazers weren’t invited to play in a bowl game at the conclusion of this past season.

Last year was just the fourth time in the program’s 19-year history that the Blazers finished .500 or better, with the other two coming in 2000 and 2001.

Based on his lone season, and his loyalty to the school, Clark deserves the first crack at making it five. That’s the least the university could do if the sport’s reinstated.

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Hacked off: Mora Twitter issues continue

UCLA v Washington State Getty Images

Either Jim Mora or the person responsible for the UCLA head coach’s Twitter account needs to pick up a copy or of “Twitter for Dummies.”

Mora’s Twitter account was originally abandoned earlier this month after a tweet war erupted in the wake of the post-bowl handshake imbroglio with kindly Bill Snyder.  Mora then moved to a private Twitter account before resurrecting the old one, as BruinsNation.com explained.

The account then posted the following photo late last night, one in a series of screen snaps astutely compiled and saved by the same SBNation.com website:

Mora Tweetgate I

That would be a Bruins uniform photoshopped onto the body of Maea Teuhema, a five-star 2015 recruit Mora and the Bruins are trying to flip away from LSU. That would also be an NCAA no-no as coaches are not permitted to acknowledged unsigned prospects in such a manner.

In a gallant attempt to cram the toothpaste back into the tube, one in which we harken back to the golden age of “the dog ate my homework” excuses, the account went here with its explanation:

Mora Tweetgate II

As of now, if you attempt to access Mora’s Twitter account, you get the following

Mora Tweetgate III

When it comes to social media in general and Twitter specifically, Mora might want to take to heart the (paraphrased) sage advice Brian Fantana gently offered Champ Kind: “Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop tweeting for a while.”

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Tweet reaffirms top QB Kyler Murray’s commitment to A&M

Kyler Murray

Things seemingly got a little dicey on the quarterback recruiting front for Texas A&M and its faithful over the last week.

Kyler Murray, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the Class of 2015, has been a long-time verbal commitment to Texas A&M, his father’s alma mater. Then came a tweet from Murray’s personal Twitter account in which he showed a picture of a Texas Longhorn jersey while on a surprise visit to Austin.

Just as quickly as the recruit caused a rise in Aggie Nation’s collective blood pressure via Twitter, Murray, following an in-home visit from A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, brought it back down on the same social media website Thursday night with a short and simple missive less than a week before National Signing Day.

In an interview with ESPN.com a short time later, Murray explained that the face-to-face with Sumlin yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to the Aggies.

Texas A&M is where my heart is at,” Murray said late Thursday night. “Coach [Charlie] Strong and Texas is a great opportunity, but I felt that A&M was the place for me. Not because of my dad having played there, but just the right place for me. …

“It went well. All my questions were answered. I just can’t wait to get this all over with and get back to playing ball.”

To further buttress Murray’s commitment, an in-home visit from Strong that had been expected Friday won’t take place after all.

Murray would/will be a four-star member of A&M’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Texas by Rivals.com.  It’s at this point in the program where we note that verbal commitments are non-binding and nothing is official until the Herbie Hancock is put on paper next Wednesday, but it doesn’t appear as if Murray will be flipping at any point in the near future.

A&M, though, is not completely out of the woods when it comes to procuring Murray’s talents for at least the next three years, although the competition could come from another sport.

Meanwhile, baseball is a threat to A&M… when it comes to Murray. As an infielder with power at the plate, he projects as a potential first-round selection in the June amateur draft, and he’ll likely have to decide between signing a pro baseball contract or playing college football.

If he does play football, he has said he intends to play baseball as well at the college of his choosing.

It’s highly likely Murray will opt for football with baseball as a secondary collegiate option ala Jameis Winston, especially given the new MLB restrictions on amateur spending, but it’s a situation that bears keeping at least one eye on when June rolls around.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Pat Narduzzi plans to transform Pitt into a version of Michigan State

Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi received his first opportunity to be a head coach from the Pitt Panthers. He has no qualms about stealing the blueprint from his old Michigan State boss, Mark Dantonio, and bringing it to the Steel City.

“I think there’s a lot of things we do well at Michigan State, so I would say you will see Michigan State of the city of Pittsburgh, really,” Narduzzi told the ‘Griff and Grinz’ Show on Lansing’s 92.1 FM The Team, per MLive.com’s Mike Griffith.

“Why would you change the blueprint of what Coach Dantonio has done there?” he asked. “There will be tiny little things here and there, but the blueprint has been set. I’ve been in the program for 11 years with Coach Dantonio, and I know how we’ve done it and built it, and I think that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Dantonio’s formula is simple:  play fundamentally-sound and physical defense with a ball-control offense. The Michigan State program has also been highly successful developing its talent despite lesser recruiting classes.

However, Narduzzi agreed he wouldn’t bring any fellow Michigan State coaches with him to Pittsburgh.

“That’s probably the hardest job I’ve had so far, putting together a staff and getting the right people,” Narduzzi said. “Too often you see guys, (like) Charlie Strong in one year at Texas, he’s already fired two guys and you look throughout the country and after one year, boom, they (assistants) can be gone.”

The former defensive coordinator also confirmed that he’ll have some input in Jim Chaney‘s offense.

“My initial intentions are to let it go, but through this last month, I’ve talked to a ton of head coaches that say, ‘Hey Pat, keep your hands on it early, then let it go — don’t let it go and have to come back in,’ which makes a whole lot of sense,” Narduzzi said. “My job is still to coach all the coaches and make sure practices are run the way we want them to be run and organized.”

Now that the coaching staff is set, Narduzzi doesn’t plan on making many changes during his tenure.

“Continuity has been a big thing for me at Michigan State and Cincinnati,” he added. “One of the reasons Pitt was such an attractive job is because it’s a job where assistant coaches can come and be happy as long as the head coach stays there.”

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Seahawks Michael Bennett: ‘NCAA is one of the biggest scams’

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability Getty Images

A pair of Seattle Seahawks didn’t pull any punches when they were asked about the plight of student-athletes and what they believe is the NCAA’s exploitation of young men and women.

Defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman were asked about their college days during Thursday’s Super Bowl media day, and their replies couldn’t have been more biting.

“I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America,” Bennett told ESPN.com’s Terry Blount. “These kids put so much on the line. They [the NCAA] say, ‘We give you a free degree.’ That’s like me owning a restaurant and saying, ‘I’ll give you a free burger.’ It makes me so mad and irate. Universities need to do more for the student-[athletes].”

Sherman’s speech revolved around the daily habits of a college athlete.

“I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to take advantage of the free education they’re given,” Sherman said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say you’re not focused on school and not taking advantage of the opportunity you’re given.

“I would love for a regular student, for just one semester, to have a student-athlete schedule during the season and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes for 2 to 6 o’clock on any given day.

“Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when you get out [of practice and meetings] at 7:30 or so and have a test the next day and you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study and get the same work done.”

Plenty of “regular students” put in the same amount of time — if not more — than a typical student-athlete.

Furthermore, student debt is at all-time high. But, go on, Mr. Sherman.

“I tell you from experience that one time I had negative 40 bucks in my account,” Sherman added. “It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal.

“People say you get room and board and they pay for your education. But to [the school officials’] knowledge, you’re there to play football. Those are the things coaches tell you every day. Luckily I was blessed to go to Stanford, a school primarily focused on academics. But as [former Stanford coach] Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were still there to play football.”

There is no denying that college football is in a transitory stage. Last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case irrevocably changed what the meaning of “student-athlete” can actually be. The NCAA also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy that will allow those schools to better service the needs of their student-athletes.

Bennett wasn’t finished ripping the system, though.

“I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players,” Bennett said. “Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment.”

However, the former Texas A&M Aggie provided a solution that would ease his concerns.

“I think the NCAA should come up with a plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring into the schools. My school, Texas A&M, I think makes $50 million just on jersey sales. So I would say pay $60,000 [to student-athletes] for every year you stay in college. Keep that in a 401(k). After you graduate, hold that money until you are a certain age and then you get the money.”

Some day this might happen. It may be closer to happening than it isn’t. Until then, scholarship athletes still receive an education without paying or paying very little to gain such an invaluable asset.

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Baylor adds alumni locker room to facilities

Baylor locker room

Every program is looking to gain an edge.

Facility improvements have become the newest arms race in college football. Programs are willing to invest millions of dollars in order to entice the nation’s top recruits.

What better way to get players to come to your program than to grant them access to those players that already made it to the NFL?

Nearly every top prospect dreams of playing in the NFL. The lure of being around professional athletes can certainly sway impressionable young men. And programs are taking advantage of that edge.

Baylor is the merely the latest to build an alumni locker room in its new Simpson Athletic and Academic Center.

“The purpose is to bring some of our pro players back to campus when they have an opportunity during the offseason and train at Baylor, which we know they like they to do,” Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski said in an interview with the school’s official athletic site. “They consider this their home, and the coaching staff is their family. This provides a great opportunity for them to put their duffel bag in and get workouts in. … All these guys really find opportunity to come back.

“They know the coaches, they know our strength coaches, and they believe in them. When you’re in the offseason and have an opportunity to come back and feel comfortable and work out with the rest of the guys, that’s just a great thing. It’s comforting. We’ve put a lot of kids in the NFL, and it’s becoming more and more of a demand. This is a great opportunity to create a space for them.”

While Patulski framed his answer by saying it’s a great opportunity for the professional athletes, it’s really beneficiary for the program, its players and even potential players.

(Photo courtesy of Baylor athletic department)

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